Rotter test: know your character and responsibility

Rotter's scale to determine the internalist or externalist tendency, how it influences responsibility and how it is modified, Wenceslao Vial



Rotter's scale and responsability 



Do you master your life and surf any wave? 

or do you always seem to sink because of bad luck?  



The usual answer would be "it depends", admitting that we are not in control of everything that happens and are not blindly tossed around by fate. In both extremes there will be a lack of responsibility .

Responsibility comes from the Latin verb respondeo, to respond. It means to give an answer for what one does. For this, it is necessary to recognize that we have a task or mission and someone who has given it to us: someone to whom to give that answer.

Whoever thinks that everything that happens to him is due to good or bad luck, will not strive to achieve a result, to fulfill a mission, even if he recognizes it. Nor will he think that someone is waiting for an answer, because everything moves by a blind and deaf chance .

At the other extreme, he who thinks that he and he alone is the author of his destiny, will not find anyone to whom he should give an answer. If anything, he will seek to answer himself, like someone who talks to himself and only answers himself... One could speak of a hyper-responsibility or an egocentric responsibility .

Rotter's test that we now propose allows us to know if we are in one of these two extremes or in the psychological normality. It consists of a short questionnaire, which shows the tendency to consider oneself the author of one's own destiny or a victim of circumstances .



The Rotter personality test classifies into internalists and externalists.


The result is presented on a scale from 1 to 23, from internalism to externalism. The distinction depends on where we consider the "control" of what happens to be: in us or outside of us. It is a trait with some stability, but it can change with time and virtue.. 

Both extremes of Rotter's scale are detrimental, but the range of normality and health is shifted toward the internalist, or higher responsibility, pole, with a value between 4 and 11.


Internalism and externalism mark affects, actions, mindsets and attitudes.

  • Why do you put up with everything that happens or why do you rebel against what happens to you?
  • Why do you think that you are to blame for everything that happens or why do you hold others responsible? 
  • When something goes wrong or you experience failure, where do you look for the guilty party?
  • If something goes well, to whom do you attribute the credit?

It is surprising to learn that the answer is partly conditioned by the way of being, by the personality that has been formed from the inherited temperament.


The result of the Rotter test influences health.


Two different personality characteristics are determined, depending on whether we attribute what happens to ourselves and our will or, on the contrary, to others and external factors; they are like two places where control is located: internal or external (Rotter speaks of locus of control).

With a click you can see the characteristics and risks of the two extremes:




Find out if you have an internalist or externalist tendency.

Completing the survey takes 5 minutes:





Personality and social learning according to Rotter.


Julian Rotter was an American psychologist who was born in New York in 1916 and died in 2014. He is known for his theory of social learning and his definition of personality as the characteristic way of reacting to a particular situation.  

For Rotter, there are four elements that allow explaining and predicting behavior in specific situations.

  1. The behavioral potential, which would be the possibility of developing a certain behavior, depending on reinforcement and expectations. 
  2. The expectation or probability foreseen by the person that positive reinforcement will occur after a certain behavior or in a specific situation. 
  3. The value of the reinforcement or the preference manifested for a certain type of reinforcement. 
  4. The psychological situation or way of perceiving and valuing the circumstances


    Rotter's internal-external locus of control scale.


    Rotter devised the self-assessment scale presented here to measure an important personality characteristic: to whom we assign the decisive role in our actions and the consequences that follow from them, ourselves, other people or external circumstances. He first published it in 1966 .

    The location of locus of control, the level of internalism or externalism, is quite stable in each person, but it can change, also in a particular behavioral context: in certain circumstances it would be internal and in others external .

    It consists of a survey, the validity of which has been scientifically proven. We obtain, as we said, a numerical result, which places us in a normal range , which is more towards internalism,

    or pathological , in the two extremes.

    Evolution and change in the Rotter locus of control.


    Modifications are possible when circumstances change. For example, after a divorce that breaks the security of life, one or both spouses may find that they are facing something inevitable, that everything depends on an inescapable destiny: that is, they become more externalist .

    The locus of control shifts instead towards the internal (higher score towards the internalist pole) as they become more aware that responsibility facilitates success.

    There are internalist or externalist children and adults. Over the years more important decisions are made, but the tendency to believe that the course of events depends largely on ourselves or external circumstances usually remains: the internalism or externalism score remains similar.


    Rotter's locus of control internalizes with age.


    As people grow in age, they may become more internalistic, and consider that they have more responsibility for what happens .

    This internalization reflects greater maturity and sense of responsibility, which facilitates family relationships and good communication .

    The kind of education you received favors internalism or externalism, especially in the way of facing difficulties and events. This characteristic also influences whether or not to assume responsibilities or commitments as one's own.

    It is worth warning about the risk of placing the locus of control too externally or too internally. The formation of the personality helps to place it in the zone of normality, assuming a healthy attitude, which means growing in freedom and responsibility.

    The self-test or Rotter scale could help to see how the personality improves or matures. If age can increase internalism, good training or formation could also achieve it. 

    If age can increase internalism, good training or formation could also achieve it.
    Growing in internalism, without exaggerating it, leads to an increase in responsibility, with the benefits that this entails: if you think that things depend on you, you are more willing to respond, which is the very etymology of the word responsibility.





    Maturity is not a process that is always the same and without setbacks.


    A mature person can become "green" again. Someone who has become more responsible, who has internalized his Locus of control, can go back to unloading blame on others and on the environment.

    If you find an excess of externalism in your life, if you consider that the cause of everything, of any "wave", good or bad, is independent of what you do, perhaps you can encourage more responsibility, with the joy of knowing who you are. If instead you notice an excess of internalism, you can encourage humility, that also will help you to be more responsible and effective .



    Take also the test of temperament on this website

    Source: Wenceslao Vial, Madurez Psicológica y espiritual, Palabra.



    Rotter's scale in different languages






    Icons: Lucas Calonje
    Modified initial photomacrovector / Freepik



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    1 Comments

    1. A very useful test that effectively takes 5 minutes: it helps you to get to know yourself in a practical aspect.

      ReplyDelete